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Padre Notebook : Whitson: Opening-Day Candidate

March 23, 1987|CHRIS COBBS | Times Staff Writer

YUMA, Ariz. — The wind was blowing in gusts up to 25 m.p.h., and the sky was a bright blue here Sunday.

It was the kind of weather the Padres might have when they open the season with a day game April 6 in Candlestick Park at San Francisco.

There was one other possible similarity. Ed Whitson was the starting pitcher.

Manager Larry Bowa declined to name his opening-day starter, but he said that Whitson is throwing better this spring than any other member of the starting rotation.

Whitson, who worked the first five innings of Sunday's 5-3 victory over Cleveland, said he doesn't care too much if he's the opening-day pitcher.

What's more important to him is to forget last year and be a productive member of Bowa's rotation.

"I'm just trying to keep it together and stay within myself," Whitson said. "I've never been an opening-day starter and I don't care if I'm not this time, as long as they give me the ball every fifth day.

"This has been my best spring since 1984, and if I can win 14 or 15 games like I did in that year (he won 14 for the Padres in '84), that would be a good year. I'd take it right now."

Last year was a disaster for Whitson, who was 5-2 with the New York Yankees before being traded back to the Padres and going 1-7 the second half of the season.

"There's a thrower and there's a pitcher, and last year I was a thrower because I had 900 things on my mind," said Whitson, who was unhappy in New York.

"I've tried to put all the negative stuff behind me now," he said. "I'm just looking at today. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow."

Whitson has made an adjustment in his delivery. He now draws a mark in the dirt where he wants his front foot to land. Previously he was throwing across his body and had trouble locating his pitches.

He's better able to hit the corners now, as he has shown this spring.

Before Sunday's appearance, when he allowed two runs and four hits, Whitson had had three impressive outings.

The Padres won Sunday's game with two runs in the eighth inning when Benito Santiago drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Shane Mack stole home with two outs.

Third baseman Kevin Mitchell had one of his best defensive outings of the spring and drew praise from Bowa.

Tony Gwynn was back in right field after missing three games with a pulled rib muscle. He had two hits.

With Jimmy Jones and Ed Wojna still vying for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, Bowa said the loser may be sent down, or could go to the bullpen.

Bowa said he plans to open the year with 10 pitchers, plus the possibility of one on the disabled list. Greg Booker is still sidelined by a sore arm and his return is uncertain.

Bowa is scheduled to make some cuts today and Tuesday. The decisions have been easy, he said.

"I really haven't had to make any," he said. "You play somebody long enough, you find out some things about them."

Eric Show, who pitched in the B game Sunday, generally enjoyed the strong wind because it helped his sinker.

There was an unusual moment, however, when he attempted to jam Cleveland's Jay Bell. The result was a pop-up that was blown over the fence for a home run.

The Padres will play the San Francisco Giants tonight at 7:05. Andy Hawkins, Dave Dravecky and Goose Gossage are the scheduled pitchers for San Diego. Gossage, who has been bothered by an ingrown hair affecting his right eye, is listed as day to day.

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